- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

BOSTON (AP) — The Old North Church, where two lanterns were hung to signal Paul Revere that the British were coming, will receive federal grant money for a fix-up under a change in government policy on church and state.

Old North is still an active Episcopal church, and up to now, historically significant structures that were also used for religious purposes have been ineligible for federal historic preservation grants because of concerns about the separation of church and state.

But Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said yesterday that under a new policy, all nationally significant historic structures can get grants.

“This new policy will bring balance to our historic-preservation program and end a discriminatory double-standard that has been applied against religious properties,” Mrs. Norton said in a statement.

The announcement drew criticism from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a 52-year-old Washington-based group.

“Gale Norton is wrong on the Constitution at a minimum because the Constitution prohibits turning the public treasury into a church-building fund, and that’s apparently what this administration now wants to do,” said Barry Lynn, the organization’s executive director.

“It’s really a gross abuse of tax dollars to drop public funds into the collection plate of an active church.”

The $317,000 grant has been approved to repair and restore windows in the building and make it more accessible to the public.

The 280-year-old church still has an active congregation, and services are held every Sunday.

On the night of April 18, 1775, two lanterns displayed from the church steeple warned Revere that the British were heading to Lexington and Concord.

Mr. Lynn said that if Revere were alive today, he would “ride around the country, saying your tax dollars are being abused and warning that the church-state separation wall has just seen another crack.”

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